How God is Glorified in the Failures of Motherhood

When I look back on my parenting I know I’ll have regrets, mainly, because I know I’m not perfect. After all, I’m always learning and changing. God is still forming Christ in me, so I’m still a work in progress. But how does knowing these things change my parenting now? I have a five-year-old, three-year-old, and an infant on the way. I haven’t traveled too far in this parenting business, but I’m already acquainted with my failures as a mom. I often thoughtfully ponder the question, “How can I fail for the glory of God and use it in my parenting?”

Read the three points at Servants of Grace >>

 

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If You Want to Live Truly, Learn to Die Daily

All year round the thorn of the gorse bush has been hardening and sharpening. Even in spring, the thorn does not soften or fall off. But at last, about halfway up, two brown furry balls emerge. They are small at first, but then they fully break out of last year’s thorn to flower into a ray of sunshine. The hardness gives way to a delicate beauty. The death of the thorn splits open to produce a blossoming resurrection of life. Death and resurrection.

We find the same pattern in our own lives.

I noticed this death-and-resurrection pattern when I became a mother. I had a traumatic birth experience, my full-term baby had to be admitted to the NICU, and he wouldn’t nurse. I battled through the difficult nursing experience I had with him for two weeks, was just about to give up, and then it worked out. When we got home from the hospital he would cry all night, and not go back to sleep, even when he was just fed. I would usually cry with him.

When evening time would come, feelings of dread would make my stomach sick because I knew what night would bring. On top of this, my body was trying to adjust to this new transition. My hormones launched me into depression. I would cry a lot for no reason, and I felt a constant loneliness and then guilt on top of it all for feeling like this when I had a new baby.

This was supposed to be a joyful time. But I felt like I was dying.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Parenting Perfection and What our Kids Need Most

Many mommy blogs and parenting articles are about what we can do (or should do) for our children. We read articles, blog posts, and books about making our kids more grateful, ways to show them more grace, ways to better train and discipline, and even ways we can better feed them. We want to be better mothers who do good works for our family. This is a good desire, and one we have evidence for from biblical principles and commands.

But many of these mommy blog posts miss our children’s greatest need. They need a greater good work than we can offer them; a good work of the heart that comes from the Holy Spirit.

Read the rest at ERLC >>

The Captivating Power of a Good Family

The more books I read to my kids, the more movies I watch with them, and the more Disney Junior shows they consume, I see one clear gospel message: “Believe in yourself.” But a close runner-up to this message would be a gospel about family, for instance in the powerful and popular new show, This Is Us. Many movies today, for every age and demographic, bring the moral of the story back to the family.

The workaholic dad finally finds his meaning in his family. The working mom that barely gets it all done realizes her life is really about her family. The rebellious teen ends up finding healing in his family. It’s a typical theme, moral, or virtue that is lifted up as one of many gods of our age. The family is often portrayed as the salvation of mankind. Family is where we find ultimate meaning.

It’s good, clean fun to believe in family, so nobody questions it. As Christians, we can agree with the value of family in movies and television, because we know the God who designed and blessed the family structure.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Missional Motherhood Study: Weeks 5 & 6

Today was the last day of my moms group and I thought I would cover our discussion from weeks 5 and 6. Two weeks ago we mainly talked about the “thousands of little deaths to self” we do as moms everyday. This idea is drawn from 2 Corinthians 4:11:

“For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

We also discussed the idea that evangelism is a mom’s work, but the giving of faith is Gods. There is freedom in knowing that it isn’t all up to us to save our children. We do have a great influence on them, and God uses us in mighty ways in our children’s lives, but only God can make blind eyes see and awaken a sleeping heart.

In today’s group we talked a lot about homemaking and the difference between making our homes an idol and making them a place to display the gospel to others (in our family and outside our family). Gloria says, “Titus 2 is not about how Christian women need to be domestic goddesses; it’s about how Christian women point people to God.” We manage our homes, in our own unique ways, to love and serve and give freely to others. Gloria speaks to this as well, “Homemaking is a strategic everyday ministry designed by God to adorn his gospel in this age….We don’t manage our homes because our homes are our hope. We manage our homes because Christ is our hope.” 

We ended the discussion today with the assurance that God will fulfill his mission in the world and in his Church, because he tells us so in his Word, and has made it evident through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and by giving us the Holy Spirit. He designed us and equips us for missional motherhood to our own children and other disciples. It is his work.

 

Missional Motherhood Study: Week 4

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This last Monday in group we mainly talked about Gloria’s take on mothering being a ministry of the priesthood. She references the Old Testament priesthood. The old sacrificial system involved one man, the High Priest, entering the Most Holy Place once a year to make atonement for the people’s sins (and is own) using animal sacrifices. This was the basis for the old covenant God made with his people. It was the provision God enabled so his people could draw near to him in a limited way. But this old way of sacrifice was also a foreshadowing of God’s ultimate plan to make final atonement for his people through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He instituted a better covenant and his sacrifice was more effective. Since Jesus was a perfect High Priest he could sacrifice himself, and his death would be sufficient for all eternity.

It is on this basis that now we each have direct and unlimited access to God through our great High Priest Jesus. And because of this we are all priests ourselves:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9

Now God calls each of us a priest; he qualifies us for the priesthood through Christ’s priesthood. This is where Gloria brings our everyday mothering into perspective as an act of the priesthood we are apart of. In her book, Gloria connects the incense offered by the priest in the tabernacle to the prayers of a mother being a fragrant offering to the Lord. We go before God on behalf of our children to offer up our incense of prayers. God has had mercy on our children by providing a priest in the next room offering up prayers for them. Mothering is part of our priesthood.

Missional Motherhood Study: Week 3

I was recently traveling with my family, so my moms group met this past Wednesday instead of Monday. Only two ladies were present, but we spent a long time talking about Gloria’s take on seasonal obsessive disorder (which is not a real disorder) and comparing it to our lives. In Jesus’ day the Jews were ‘obsessing’ about their season of oppressive Roman rule and they expected the Messiah to deliver them. But while the Jews were looking for someone to deliver them from their temporary situation, they were overlooking their greater need for eternal deliverance. In much the same way, we as moms can obsess over the season of parenting we are in with our children and pine for a different season.

I know lately I’ve been pining for a season when my boys are more independent from me. I can day dream about having more freedom, especially with my two year old who clings to me day and night. And yet my eyes are set on the temporal circumstances of my life when they should ultimately be set on hope in Christ and his return. Gloria reminds us that we are all in the larger season of life, which is wrought with hardship. In every season we find ourselves in, and in all of this tumultuous life, Christ is the anchor for our souls. What a solid truth to hold fast to as a mom called to daily nurturing of little bodies and souls.

When Does Mommy Get to Rest?

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

The words barely roll off my tongue as I bend down to hear my three-year-old son whisper in my ear, “Mama, I want a snack.”

My hands feel around diapers, wipes, and extra clothing items in my bag and then grab onto a small packet of crackers. I tear open the packet and hand it to my son as I resume singing.

Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

I glance down to see my son huddled over his blue sneakers, tugging at the yellow laces that have come untied. As I continue to sing one of my favorite hymns, I plop my son down on a chair to retie his shoes.

This is a typical Sunday morning service for young moms — worship as a mother. We sing praise with our mouths to God, while worshiping by tearing open cracker packets and tying loose laces. It’s Sunday, a Sabbath day for many, a day to rest, take it easy, be refreshed, and prepare for another week of schedules, appointments, and work. And yet my hands are busy at work all day. How can I enjoy rest when caring and nurturing is a round-the-clock job?

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Missional Motherhood Study: Week 2

Today we had our second mom’s meet-up to discus session 2 of Gloria Furman’s missional motherhood. In this video Gloria gave us a sweeping synopsis of the gospel story intertwined throughout the entire Bible. She presents us with the “big story” of scripture and asks us how it fits into our smaller stories of everyday mothering.

The biggest takeaway from our discussion today was the promise of hope we have in Christ. His death, burial, and resurrection gives us a present and future hope in him alone. We see hope in Adam naming Eve “the mother of all living“, the hope of rescue and redemption in the Old Testament as every story points to Jesus, and then the fulfillment of hope in the New Testament and beyond. This hope is not grounded in ourselves and our efforts or the performance of our children; it is grounded in the hope of Christ’s resurrection. Even if our day does not go as planned, we know that ultimately all things will go well (and as planned) for God’s children in the end.

Leave me a comment with your thoughts after you watch the video.

Missional Motherhood Study: Week 1

I just finished the first video by Gloria Furman in her 6 week bible study series. It’s a sweetly short video, which you can find here. Yesterday I had a few local mom friends over (we each live within a few blocks from each other) and we went over the discussion questions from the workbook. We grasped onto Gloria’s statement about being more than “just a mom”. And we also talked about how the spiritual warfare of mothering can include believing that lie ourselves. We need to remind ourselves that what we do, no matter how small, has meaning and purpose. We are living with a mission to make disciples of Christ. This happens not just in the words we speak, and the kind of life we live, but in the way we care physically for our children and those in our churches and communities.

Takeaway points from our personal discussion included:

  • Valuing motherhood has more to do with the internal than the external. We can value motherhood and believe we are more than “just a mom” whether we stay home full time, work from home, or work outside of the home in any capacity.  
  • Satan seeks to destroy life in our homes, which can manifest itself in many ways, especially in telling us lies about our mothering. 
  • We all need rest and peace from mommy guilt. Whatever choices we’ve made for schooling, feeding, diapering, daily routine, and discipline should not feel like a burden of guilt and condemnation. Jesus has a better yoke for us, one in which we are humbly dependent on him for our lives and those of our children. This is how we find peace. 

Leave me a comment after you watch the video and let me know your thoughts. 

Missional Motherhood Online Bible Study

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The Lifway Women blog, in partnership with The Gospel Coalition, is hosting an online fall bible study featuring Gloria Furman’s Missional Motherhood. The study begins September 29th. If you sign up here you’ll get a free teaching video every week for six weeks and you can use the bible study workbook by yourself, in a group, or just comment right on the Lifeway Women bible study posts.

Once I begin the study I’ll be publishing a response post every week pertaining to the video and workbook questions. Comment below if you plan to join me.

missional-motherhood

The Daily Work of the Spirit

Growing up in the church I was familiar with ministry nights. I also grew up experiencing the full gamut of Christian conferences and retreats. These events included extended times of prayer and worship accompanied by serene guitar strums and low lighting. Sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit felt as effortless as the melodies falling softly on my ears. These felt like special times when God would reveal himself to me in my stillness, and the Spirit would convict me of sin and help me set my sights on Christ.

These organized events can be refreshing and beneficial, but I’ve realized I should be seeking ministry from the Holy Spirit at all times. The Spirit’s ministry doesn’t have to be still, quiet, peaceful, and at a scheduled time. The Holy Spirit works in the mundane everyday moments of life — the nitty-gritty daily grind.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Glorifying God with Autism

By: Teresa Chen

In the summer of 2012 we welcomed our first child. We didn’t realize that he was behind most kids developmentally and struggled to meet many of his milestones. He received a diagnosis of autism at age three this past summer. Some signs seemed to point towards this direction but we were never quite sure.

“He’s quirky,” one of his therapists would say, “but I don’t think he’s autistic.” Also, because autism is a spectrum, there are many different experiences of it and children with the diagnosis don’t always look the same. I’ve wrestled with this diagnosis in the past. On one hand, he has many things about him that are “normal”. On the other hand, he’s struggled socially than most other kids. As we have walked down this path with our son, here are some things that God has shown us.

1. It’s completely ok to say it’s not ok.

Raising an autistic child is a form of real suffering, and it’s ok to say it’s hard. 1 Peter 1 says we have living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and yet are grieved by various trials. Life is not what it should be, and yet we hope in something better for all eternity.

Our son’s inflexibility and outbursts are a real part of our daily lives and are emotionally draining at times. During those times I’ve found freedom in admitting, “This is really hard!” without feeling guilty that it IS hard. As Christians, our lives are lived sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Cor 6:10). This sorrow helps us cling to Christ in our weakness, and that is a true gift.

2. A diagnosis is a tool, not an identity.

The word autism is a scary word in today’s world. It certainly was to us. Over time, we’ve realized that this diagnosis is both helpful and unhelpful. While it highlights that our child is different than others, it also has opened up doors to therapies and schools that have served our son a lot. Also, it helps those meeting our son for the first time to be more understanding and patient with him.

His diagnosis doesn’t change who he is, but is merely a tool that describes aspects of who he is. Autism doesn’t have the final say in who our son is, because Scripture paints a fuller story of his identity. In the world’s terms, a diagnosis traps him into saying, “I am autistic.” He instead can say, “I have autistic tendencies, but I am a son, an image bearer, of my Creator and King.”

3. God is not limited by autism.

As we prayed for God to provide children, God heard our cries and provided our son for us. He is the exact son that we were supposed to have. God didn’t make a mistake in giving him to us.

While it would be great if he could catch up with his peers, Scripture tells us that there is a greater “human-ness” than achieving academic or social success; being truly human is glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. Our son is included in this calling. Our biggest desire for him is that he knows God and lives for Him in the context of who God made him to be. Faithfulness to God may look different for him than us, but we are called to raise him and guide him in figuring out what that looks like.

Recently, God graciously gave me a picture of how the Gospel includes people with autism. Another family’s teenage autistic son sat two rows in front of me at church and took part in communion. He was included in the kingdom of God and was remembering what his Savior had done! I was reminded that God isn’t limited by autism in His ability to save. I can look up from weakness and dream big for my son because his God is so big.

4We must all make room in our lives for people with disabilities. 

Raising our son has challenged me to make room in my life for other people who are different or hard to love. I am thankful for those who have been compassionate and welcoming to him, and have been humbled in my pride to want to love others like I would want people to love him.

Many times I just want to be comfortable and to be around people who are like me. However, true unity in Christ includes diversity in age, race, culture, socio-economic status, and physical and mental abilities. Through Christ we are united to His church, which transcends all boundaries and unifies us. We must make room for diversity in our lives and in the church, including those who are relationally difficult, because the Gospel is for such as these.

3 Gospel Truths to Teach My Sons About the City

I live in the hometown of the Fresh Prince of Belair: West Philadelphia. But unlike Will Smith, I wasn’t born and raised here. Yet like Will Smith, the playground IS where I spend most of my days — mainly because I have two little boys. Many young married couples leave the inner city when they start a family, but we did not.

Most parents are rightly concerned with sheltering their children. (Even though we need to be wary of over-sheltering.) But growing up in the city my sons will be exposed to things on a regular basis that a child living in the suburbs might never encounter. I view this as a positive thing and a tool I can use in my mothering. I’m determined to show my sons the Gospel in our city living. Here is how:

1.) Diversity

Our row home is between a halfway house and a convent. To my left the street numbers get higher and go deeper into West Philly. When I push the double stroller with my shining white children to this side of the neighborhood, we are the white dots amidst a dark sea of black faces. If I push my double stroller to the right of our row home the street numbers get lower and the face coloring changes. On this side of my neighborhood is a large Muslim population, complete with a mosque. Walking this way it’s not uncommon to see women shrouded in black fabric — even at times only revealing their eyes. There are many Indian and Asian eateries on this side, representing those cultural populations as well. Around the corner from my house is a Spanish owned “corner store” where my 3 year old dances to salsa music.

As I walk further down this side of my neighborhood it turns into University City. This part of West Philadelphia is more affluent, since it is the home of Drexel University and the Ivy League UPenn. In this area of the intellectual elite there are rows of sororities and fraternities. University City is also home to many hippies and hipsters, many of whom frequent our local Co-op — the place where I can’t determine the gender of the individual bagging my groceries.

We live in a small area of racial, religious, cultural, sub-cultural, and economic diversity. What can I possibly teach my sons about the Gospel here? Namely, that the Gospel is not just for American middle to upper class white people. The Gospel is no longer restricted to one ethnic community (the Jews), but through Christ’s death and resurrection it’s available to a wide range of people (the Gentiles). Heaven will be a co-mingling of races and cultures. The Gospel makes no room for racism or partiality to economic status; before the cross the ground is leveled for us all. Through Christ’s atoning blood the barrier between us all is broken, because when we are at peace with God we can be at peace with others.

As I walk my sons on either side of our neighborhood I can teach them about the Gospel: how God loves to redeem a diverse group of people to himself. He desires that none should perish, not even the androgynous person bagging our groceries who can receive a new identity in Christ.

2.) Comfort

The city can make people uncomfortable. Who hasn’t experienced a struggling conscience when passing by a smelly man in dirt-smudged baggy clothes holding a cardboard sign asking for money? The subway can be a place of strong discomfort when you’re packed in tightly in the heat of summer — holding on with one arm up. We try not to look each other in the eyes too closely, because God forbid we have to say hello.

When I first moved here I was uncomfortable with parallel parking, laundry mats, and the plethora of one way streets. My first year of city living was paid for in parking tickets. I had no idea what all the parking signs meant. Where do I pay for my parking spot? How long can my car sit in this space until I see that white paper on my windshield?

Sometimes my boys and I walk by people who scream at each other or a car zooms past blaring rap music laced with obscenities. Often times we run into the crazy man from the halfway house who mumbles under his breath as he shuffles by on the sidewalk. Talk about feeling uncomfortable.

And yet the Gospel is never about personal comfort. Jesus left his heavenly comforts to make a home in uncomfortable surroundings. His entrance into this world began cramped inside a womb, and he was laid in a wooden manger among the filth and foul odors of barnyard animals. We can tell Jesus felt uncomfortable in the Garden of Gethsemane as he wrestled with the most uncomfortable decision of all: dying on a Roman crucifix. And yet Jesus put all his comfort aside to literally take up his cross and die. I can remind my children of these truths on our next subway ride, because we must also be like Jesus and sometimes sacrifice comfort for the sake of the Gospel.

3.) Safety

Many women ask me if I feel safe here. Our family asks why we don’t move to the suburbs with our boys. At our previous residency our next door neighbor had a break in — encountering the robber face to face. Our current home was previously inhabited by a sexual predator who stole the house from its rightful owners. The bank put the house up for sale when the man was arrested and charged with fifty felonies. Recently a young woman was murdered in her apartment a few blocks from us, and there was a shooting on our Pastor’s street.

My family and I are never truly safe, and yet we are ultimately safe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The stories I see on the news show me that no matter the place of residency none of us are safe from physical harm or death. But we can be confident that in Christ our souls are eternally safe. Though we turn on our security system every night, I can teach my sons about the true security found in the Gospel. If they believe by faith in Christ crucified and risen from the dead they will be saved from the reign of their sin and the flames of hell.

By raising my children in the city I can teach them that the Gospel shines brightly in diversity, it is no respecter of personal comforts, and that our ultimate safety is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is good news to share on either side of the neighborhood.